Pronouns (p. 94)

As we say in the book, a pronoun is a word that can replace a noun to add variety to and avoid repetition in sentences. We mention a few of the pronoun types on page 94 in the book (personal pronouns used as subjects and objects in sentences and the indefinite pronouns), while below we mention five more:


1) Possessive personal pronouns, which, as the name suggests, indicate possession.

Some possessive pronouns can stand alone:

mine, yours, hers, his, its, ours, theirs

  • The smallest car is mine.
  • The victory is yours.

Other possessive pronouns precede a noun, for example:

my; your; her; his; its; our; their

  • My car is better than your car.
  • Your victory is ensured.


2) Demonstrative pronouns, which are used to identify a noun/pronoun:

 this, that, these and those

  • This must be the one I meant
  • This is sad; that is even worse

"This" and "these" are used in referring to something close to the speaker. "That" and "those" are used in referring to something farther away from the speaker.

  • Three students wanted these.
  • The rest wanted those.


3) Interrogative pronouns, which are used to ask questions:

who, whom, which, what, whoever, whomever, whichever, whatever

  • Which is the best alternative?
  • Who wrote the book?
  • Whatever happened to you?


4) Relative pronouns which are used to link different parts of a sentence:

who, whom, that, which, whose

  • The man who ate my sandwich is dead.
  • The man whose sandwich I ate is dead.
  • The man to whom you are referring was declared dead yesterday.


The Norwegian language doesn’t have as many relative pronouns, in fact only “som” is used frequently. Moreover, Norwegian does not distinguish between things and people, but English does, and this is something Norwegians often get wrong. Remember, which is for things, and who is for people:

  • Oslo, which is the capital of Norway, has a population of around a half million people.
  • Jeremy, who is my best friend, lives in Norway now.
  • Scarlet, who is a famous actress, stopped by last night.
  • Hollywood, which is in California, is Scarlet’s home for the moment when she’s not with me.


5)      Reflexive pronouns, which are used to refer back to the subject of the sentence:

myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves

  • I often clean the classroom myself.

Myself refers to the subject “I” and emphasizes that I do my own cleaning in the classroom.



When looking at the effect of pronouns in texts try to call them by their proper name. Using the terminology correctly makes your answer more specific and easier to follow.

Here are a few effects of pronouns that you might find in a text:

  1. Personal pronouns make the text seem as though it is directly addressing the reader, making it more personal and more likely for the reader to respond.
  2. When the reader is addressed directly with the pronoun you, for example, responsibility for the issue can be shifted to the reader, for example: “What are YOU doing about global warming?”. The reader is made to think about his or her personal responsibility.
  3. Use of personal pronouns can establish a connection between the reader and the writer. In this case the writer might use “we”. Perhaps he starts with you and I but ends up with we and our/ourselves. For example: “I like my car. You like a warm fire in the hearth. Should we change our habits? What can we, ourselves, do?” 
  4. A text, for example an advertisement, might use interrogative pronouns to draw your attention to a product, brand or company: “Who’s number one?”; “Which car has the most comfort?”; “Who gives you the most value for your money?” “What more could you want?”
  5. Demonstrative pronouns are often used in advertising texts to promote one brand over another, for example. “This brand is the best, while that, on the other hand…”
  6. Use of indefinite pronouns can generalise and perhaps weaken a text. For example, instead of: “You can make a difference”, which has a direct tone and is encouraging in a positive way, “Anyone can make a difference” undermines the text, e.g. “if anyone can make a difference why should I care?”


Cappelen Damm

Sist oppdatert: 19.10.2012

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